Thirty-four excellent kiwi kids’ books ripe for reading

The Sapling has released its inaugural Best Books list over the past week, listing 34 homegrown books that cover every reading interest and genre published in New Zealand. 

‘Since launching in March, we have read or paid others to read almost every single book published in New Zealand. While even we can think of some more books we might have added, we reckon we’ve provided a list that has something for everybody,’ says Sarah Forster, Editor of The Sapling.

‘A pick for overall book of the year? It’s a tough one, but the strongest category of the year is non-fiction. The factual books produced this year by New Zealand publishers for kids have been excellent. Aotearoa, by Gavin Bishop is near flawless, and so is How to Mend a Kea, by Janet Hunt.’ 

With over 200 articles published so far, the editors of children’s literature website The Sapling are amazed at what they have achieved in the first 10 months of its existence. 

Sarah says, ‘We are all extremely proud of what we have created. We have started a kōrero about children’s literature that was absent in New Zealand media up until now. We have examined the wonderful books created for children and opened conversations around dozens of them. And we have got some damned amazing writers contributing.’ 

Sarah Forster and Jane Arthur started The Sapling in March 2017, with the help of Creative New Zealand and a successful Boosted campaign. In September, they received news that they had been successful in gaining funding for 2018 from Copyright Licensing Limited. Thalia Kehoe Rowden has been co-editor since September, while Jane is on maternity leave with her new baby. 

The best 34 books include 10 picture books, 12 junior and middle fiction titles, 7 factual books, and 5 YA titles. The guide for the creation of this list was The Sapling’s first kaupapa: Whakanui/Celebrate: To celebrate the excellence and diversity of children’s books in Aotearoa and abroad. 

The pleasure of agonising over such lists has been a theme for the last year for Forster, who was a judge at this year’s New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. The Sapling’s list covers an overlapping but different time period from those awards, focusing on books published in 2017.

This list is proudly Aotearoa-based. Says Sarah, ‘Though we do celebrate some international titles throughout the year, we excluded them from our list, as we think it is important to showcase New Zealand books at this time of year.

‘Buying New Zealand books for Christmas, from a New Zealand publisher, at a New Zealand bookseller maximises the impact your Christmas book spend has on the New Zealand economy. If we want to keep our local book industry pumping, this is the way to do it, and The Sapling gets behind that wholeheartedly.’ Share your buys on #NZChristmasBookChallenge to join in! 

For our full list, reviews and age range indicators, please have a look online at 

For further information, images, and interviews about the list, please contact: 
Sarah Forster, Editor, The Sapling,, 021 1767684

2017 Christmas Shopping List: Picture Books
2017 Christmas Shopping List: Junior and Middle Fiction
2017 Christmas Shopping List: Factual Books
2017 Christmas Shopping List: YA Fiction

#NZChristmasBookChallenge was conceived by Paula Morris, and issues the challenge to buy at least one book by a NZ author, from an NZ publisher, at an NZ bookseller this Christmas.